Published in the August 4, 1958 issue of Buffalo News


Writer: Unknown

The engine of a speedy Blue Angels Navy jet goes dead. The plane, crash lands in the midst of busy commercial traffic at bustling Buffalo Airport. It could have been a tragedy – but no one was hurt.

And it happened in just a little over 90 seconds.

The story of how a tragedy was averted in that tight 11/2-minute period is the story of how well-trained men in the air and on the ground can act instinctively – and know what the other fellow’s reaction will be. There wasn’t time to weigh the alternatives and decide which were best.

Lt. John R. Dewenter, pilot of the stricken plane, made the initial decision in an instant. He would stick with the plane and try to bring it into Buffalo Airport.

Second Pilot Alerts Pilot

Lt. John Damian, flying another Blue Angel jet, made the second decision just as quickly. He knew that Lt. Dewenter would have to concentrate all his mental and physical effort on keeping the disabled jet under control. Lt. Damian immediately became the other pilot’s voice and ears.

In short, clear sentences, Lt. Damian explained to the CAA tower at the Airport what had happened and what Lt. Dewenter was going to attempt.

"The boys upstairs were talking fast," a tower operator recalls.

An extra CAA operator was put on duty about as quickly as it takes to read about it. His assignment – get the area clear of other planes.

The tower personnel on duty – James C. Locurto, Guido R. Crapsie, and Lyle A. Kraus – were galvanized into action by the emergency. Directed by Mr. Locurto, the others – thanks to their training – instinctively reacted by alerting ground units to clear runways of service vehicles and airlanes of aircraft.

Luck Played A Part

There was an element of luck involved. A Capital Airlines DC-3 had taken off a minute before the emergency call was received. All incoming traffic was more than 5 miles out. The operator sent the message to the oncoming planes to stay clear of the Airport.

The CAA describes such messages as routine. Incoming planes frequently are held up briefly if traffic is heavy.

The other element of luck was the weather. The light, 7-knot wind permitted the CAA to use all the runways. The crippled jet was directed to the southwest side of the Airport.

No Delays In Airport Traffic

Tower personnel knew that "these runways and that plane just don’t go together". They watched with admiration as Lt. Dewenter touched down, and skidded off the end of the runway and stopped safely in a gas-station yard.

The busy flow of routine air traffic was diverted to the northeast section of the Airport. There were no delays.

The runway over which the crippled jet had skittered was inspected carefully before it was re-opened.

The men who talked fast, thought fast, and acted fast had pulled it off.


Writer: Unknown

Published in the August 4, 1958 issue of Buffalo News

A Timely click of an electric switch, that turned a traffic light red, may have averted a major tragedy Saturday.

A Navy spokesman said today that the Genesee Street traffic light at the intersection of Cayuga Road turned red seconds before Lt. John R. Dewenter skidded his Blue Angel F11F Tiger jet across Genesse Street.

The Light stopped the traffic and cleared the way for the disabled plane.


Writer: Unknown

Published in the August 4, 1958 issue of Buffalo News

Lt. Dewenter Won Wings In 1947, Served In Naval Intelligence, Studied Chinese

Lt. John R. Dewenter, the 30-year-old Navy pilot who became an aviation hero by bringing in a crippled jet for a crash-landing at the risk of his own life Saturday has a long, proud record of service to his country.

He holds the Distinguished Flying Cross, three Air Metals, Korean Service Ribbon with three stars, the Korean Presidential Unit Citation and the United Nations Metal.

Lt. John R. Dewenter won his wings in 1947 and in October 1950, joined Fighter Squadron 781, a reserve unit that volunteered 100% for Korean combat. After a tour on the USS Bon Homme Richard, he was assigned to the Naval Intelligence Center for two years’ study of Chinese and intelligence techniques.

He returned to Korea in 1954 as a Chinese interpreter for the United Nations Military Armistice Commission at Panmunjom. Later he served as aide to the admiral commanding Fleet Air Arm Pacific at the Naval Air Station in Atsugi, Japan.

In April 1957, he was transferred to Carrier Division 5 for an Australian cruise on the USS Bennington. He was then sent to Pensacola, Florida, prior to his two-year assignment to the Blue Angels in November 1957.

Lt. Dewenter’s wife is the former Patricia Ann Wilhour, of Fredericksburg, Virginia.